Michaël Borremans – Black Mould at the David Zwirner Gallery
A vast collection of ambiguous and ominous paintings by Michaël Borremans fills the 18th-century Georgian townhouse of the London branch of the David Zwirner Gallery. Curator Jeffrey Grove has designed each room of the gallery to be dark, with just spotlights focusing on the paintings. The result is atmospheric and the viewer’s attention is completely focused on the collection. Borremans’ oil paintings reside on wood and cardboard, creating a naturally textured surface on which he portrays figures, robed from head to toe in black. Their shrouded faces cause us to contemplate many possibilities: Is the protagonist trying to hide something, is the artist aiming to express something about himself that is usually hidden, or is he intending to represent society and suggest that most people hide their true selves behind a metaphorical mask?
Displayed in the gallery as though creating a cinematic sequence, Borremans’ paintings titled Pogo are small in scale but contain exquisite detail that accentuates light and shadow. Technically, the artist’s application of paint appears traditional, while the uncertain and unnerving subject matter is much more contemporary. Standing in a large room with many paintings of a similar nature, the viewer feels disconcerted by the faceless figures. There is a lack of context, and the emotions and poses of the characters are unclear, as there is no further indication to their story.
Upstairs, the paintings become even more obscure, as some of the figures appear half-naked, and others are holding bleeding limbs. The motion and action of the figures are even more bizarre, with an added menacing vibe from the seemingly arbitrary cut-off limbs. Most of the paintings are on the same small scale, making Borremans’ largest painting, The Leafs, prominent. As with the setting of the others, the figures appear to be in a studio. This time, however, their action is clear and they are seen to be creating a painting. An intense red takes up the shape of large leaves that strongly contrast against the cool green/yellow background. It is a slow realisation – after comparison with the other paintings in the room – that it is most probably blood that they are painting with. Black Mould is both alluring and unsettling, and causes visitors to leave with many questions.
Michaël Borremans: Black Mould is at the David Zwirner Gallery from June 13th until August 14th 2015, for further information visit here.